PHOTOS: Storm pelts Chicago with tornadoes, winds, hail - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

PHOTOS: Storm pelts Chicago with tornadoes, winds, hail

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Credit: Matthew Crowley Credit: Matthew Crowley
CHICAGO (Associated Press) -

A severe storm packing winds as high as 70 mph and golf-ball size hail came through Chicago Wednesday night, triggering air and rail travel cancellations and delays.

The National Weather Service was relaying unconfirmed reports of tornados near Sandwich, the Chicago Sun-Times is reported. Winnebago County emergency officials also reported several small tornadoes touched down briefly. The weather service says a spotter reported a tornado touched down in DeKalb County.

The Chicago area is also under a Severe Thunderstorms Watch for until 1 a.m. Thursday. Strong storms capable of producing damaging winds in excess of 75 mph and hail larger than 2" in addition to an increased tornado threat.

Heavy rain is also possible overnight and a Flash Flood Watch has been posted until Thursday. Flash flooding could occur in isolated areas, with rapid flooding of streets and low lying areas possible.

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City officials activated Aurora's severe weather sirens due to a tornado warning issued for Kendall County. There have been no tornadoes spotted within the City limits, authorities said.

"We haven't had any wind speed reports yet, but trees and power lines are down." said Seeley. "And we're still worried about the golf-ball size hail it dropped on Rockford."

Fellow meteorologist Andrew Krein also sounded the alarm.

"We're talking a major threat here. We're talking damaging winds, large hail, a chance of tornadoes and also very heavy rainfall," Krein said. "There's a flash flood watch out for basically all of Northern Illinois and the Chicago metro area and into Lake and Porter counties in Indiana."

Chicago should see two to three inches of rainfall, with some areas expected to get a bit more rain. Flooding will occur in low-lining areas, river streams, viaducts and Chicago's streets: "It doesn't take as much rainfall . . .to cause flooding in Chicago."

Klein said the threat of tornadoes is very real.

"These storms are going to develop rapidly," he said. "The threat [of tornadoes] is here, and I would emphasize the threat is over the whole area."

As of 5:30 p.m., METRA had halted inbound and outbound service on its Union Pacific Northwest, West and North Lines as well as its Burlington Northern line to Aurora "due to severe weather related conditions," according to a service alert posted on the agency's web site.

Trains were either halted on the tracks or not leaving the downtown terminals, Agency spokesman Tom Miller said.

Miller was unaware of any obstructions on the tracks but said the stoppages were "a precaution for the safety of our passengers."

Even before the storms moved in, more than 120 flights had been cancelled at O'Hare International Airport, with only some of those flights called off proactively because of the impending storms, Chicago Dept. of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride said.

Airlines at both O'Hare and Midway anticipate the weather will cause delays later Wednesday evening.

Meteorologists are warning about the possibility of a weather event called a derecho, which is a storm of strong straight-line winds.

Tornadoes and a derecho can happen at the same time, but at any given place Wednesday the straight-line winds are probably more likely. Straight-line winds lack the rotation that twisters have, but they can still cause considerable damage as they blow down trees and other objects.

"Be prepared to move away from windows," Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. "Listen for weather warnings and go into a basement, if possible, and get underneath a study object like a table, he said, if a tornado warning is issued. "You want to know where your family's at so everyone can get to safety successfully."
 
Last year, a derecho caused at least $1 billion in damage from Chicago to Washington, killing 13 people and leaving more than 4 million people without power, according to the weather service. Winds reached nearly 100 mph in some places and in addition to the 13 people who died from downed trees, an additional 34 people died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power.

Officials in other parts of northern Illinois are urging residents to listen for weather warnings.
 
Naperville city staff is working on an interactive map showing flooded streets for the city's website. Naperville crews will remain on stand-by throughout the night monitoring the latest forecasts.

Wednesday night's Chicago White Sox game has been canceled as a precaution for the upcoming weather.  A symphony performance scheduled for Wednesday night at Millennium Park has also been canceled. Game one of the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup pursuit at the United Center will still be played.

For those fans heading to the Blackhawks game, OEMC urges them to take extreme caution and allow for extra travel time to and from the game.

Northwestern University canceled classes and finals scheduled for Wednesday night on its Chicago and Evanston campuses.

Get updates by following FOX 32 Chief Meteorologist Bill Bellis on Twitter.

Storms and damage in your area? Email your weather photos to foxpix@foxchicago.com

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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